China’s economic growth could be described as quick and dirty. China’s growth has been great for the economy, but not so much for the environment.
The strategy in the past could be summed up as “growth at all costs,” but now China is realizing the true cost to the environment and to its people. Air pollution in Hong Kong, a city of over seven million people, has some of the worst air pollution in the world. Air pollution has been blamed for over 300 deaths in Hong Kong in the first quarter of 2013.
Other major cities in China are facing similar problems, such as Beijing, with over twenty million inhabitants, whose air quality is consistently rated hazardous. China estimates it will spend some $16 billion to combat Beijing’s air pollution.
The environmental damage in China is extensive and will likely cause more deaths in the years to come. The quandary is how to get industry to change from “growth at all costs” to clean up their act. According to a new interpretation of existing laws, China could actually hand down the death penalty on serious polluters.
Wait, capital punishment for damaging the environment? China is already the world leader in capital punishment, executing thousands of people, annually. The death penalty in China is often imposed for corruption and economic crimes, but could also be handed down to enforce the country’s environmental protection laws.
According to Reuters, “The new judicial interpretation which took effect on Wednesday would impose ‘harsher punishments’ and tighten ‘lax and superficial’ enforcement of the country’s environmental protection laws, the official Xinhua news agency reported. ‘In the most serious cases the death penalty could be handed down.’”